Mar 09 2012

The “Nation Under God” debate video is here


I’ve avoided doing much commenting on this and I’ll continue to, so that I don’t poison the responses I get back. That said, I generally enjoyed it and hope others will, as well. There’s always room for improvement…


Skip to comment form

  1. 1

    I’m about halfway through the video now. Two quick responses:
    1. I really don’t understand some of the enthusiatic applause that Murray got at some points. There were people yelling “yeah” and applauding forcefully in the middle of pretty boring sentences. I must be missing something.
    2. Does Murray think that the “unalienable rights” that we have as Americans that are supposedly granted from God are unique to America? If so, why? If these rights are unalienable because of the nature of God, and he thinks that is God is the same God that has ruled all other countries, then why are those rights unique to America? Shouldn’t they have existed in the Holy Roman Empire, too?

    1. 1.1

      In response to #1, probably 95% of the audience were Christians, and I think they just wanted to applaud Murray no matter what he was saying.

    2. 1.2
      Blair T

      In response to point #2, Christianity advocated the Divine Right of Kings for most of European history as part of the Great Chain of Being theory. That is, the inalienable rights of monarchs to rule over subjects. This seem more in keeping with theology and tradition.

  2. 2

    I haven’t seen it (it’s late and I’m tired), but I will say I have never heard of anyone who claims that “this nation was founded on Christian principles/ethics/morals/etc” who was able to back it up with examples.

    Can you at least give a summary of what the video is about so I know whether to expect to be enraged or happy?

    1. 2.1

      The video is a debate between Matt Dillahunty and Abdu Murray, who is an accomplished and well-spoken ex-Muslim Christian apologist. I’m seeing lots of comments mocking him but he seems pretty intelligible to me, even if I don’t agree with him.

      Murray basically sticks to one point which I guess he finds pretty convincing. That point is that the Declaration states that we have inalienable rights, and it makes no sense for us to have inalienable rights without there being a god. He elaborates about what he means by inalienable rights by saying for example that slaves have a right to freedom and that right is just repressed. I guess it’s kind of like the moral law argument for God’s existence because the point was that in order to have these rights there has to be a “right giver.”

      Dillahunty says Murray took the debate in an entirely different direction from what he thought the debate was about. Dillahunty thought the debate was more like “should America be made a nation under God” whereas Murray made it like “should America be considered a nation under God.” Anyway, Dillahunty goes over some points he had about his own idea of what the debate was going to be and then addresses Murray in some capacity. Then they both do closing statements and the second half of the video is questions.

      I didn’t really think Matt adequately addressed Abdu’s main point. He said that we might have inalienable rights and we might not and it didn’t matter so much what the Declaration says, but he didn’t really get into the matter of whether or not we could actually have inalienable rights without there being a god. It was a pretty amicable debate without any real worldview changing statements from either side. I guess it made me think a bit when Murray said morality cannot follow from pure reason alone. But all the talk of morality sort of derailed the debate. Strangely enough, nobody actually mentions the separation of church and state throughout the entire video.

      Expect to be neither enraged nor happy.

      1. jacobfromlost

        I think you give incredibly short shrift to Matt, which makes your entire post suspect.

        1. Kyle

          Suspect in what way? I wasn’t even making a case for anything. The guy simply asked for a summary for crying out loud.

          Have you considered that maybe I didn’t talk about Matt as much because I assume most people here are already pretty familiar with Matt’s views and arguments?

          1. jacobfromlost

            You seem very angry. Your description of the debate was slanted and incomplete. I’m just pointing that out.

            And the guy asked for a summary 5 DAYS AGO. Replying now at the top of the thread while playing up Murray’s weak immitation of Craig as if it were effective, and simultaneously dismissing Matt, is suspect.

          2. Kyle

            I already explained why it was slanted and incomplete. And I actually checked the whole thread to see if anyone replied to this guy and no one did. You say I’m “suspect,” meaning something you won’t clarify, and then say I’m angry. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to respond to your harassment.

          3. jacobfromlost

            Again, you replied to me FIRST, and your tone has been angry throughout. If you don’t want me to point this out, stop replying (or stop replying angrily, lol).

            I invite readers to read our exchanges for themselves and judge who is doing the harassing.

  3. 3

    63 minutes in, there was a maddening note. Murray said that humans are not animals because animals don’t have moral senses. After all, sharks don’t show morals.


    That’s like saying that Toyotas aren’t automobiles because automobiles, like Cadillacs, are made in Detroit.


    1. 3.1

      I guess all those immoral humans out there are no true Scotsman (or something to that effect).

    2. 3.2
      Joshua Fisher

      Also, he asked, “Is it murder when a lion kills a zebra?”

      No, neither is it murder when a man kills a cow or a deer.

  4. 4

    I’m about 10 minutes in. Is it just me, or has the first speaker pretty much lifted his argument from William Lane Craig’s debate with Sam Harris about being good without God? He even stresses his syllables the same awkward way.

    1. 4.1

      I noticed the exact same thing immediately. His argument is structured identically, and fails for the exact same reasons (which I could go into), in addition to the points that Matt hits. He even goes so far as to use Craig’s same examples of lions not murdering zebras, and male sharks not raping female sharks.

      I sincerely had the impression that he had studied Craig in that debate and was either intentionally using an identical argument or at the very least trying to emulate him.

  5. 5

    Murray doesn’t understand that the concept of “unalienable rights” is useless unless those rights are actually granted. If God doesn’t enforce our God-given rights, we don’t have them in any meaningful way.

    1. 5.1

      Murray doesn’t understand that the concept of “unalienable rights” is useless unless those rights are actually granted.

      Yes, and no. A sensible version of the “inalienable rights” argument is this: You possess certain “moral rights” simply by virtue of the fact that you are a person. Yes, a government might refuse to grant, or might deprive you of, those inalienable rights, but the government would be acting immorally to do so — there is and can be no moral right of a government to take away the inalienable moral rights of an individual. This “sensible” version of the argument does not imply that the only way that inalienable rights can exist is if they somehow “come from God.”

      This sort of language would have been very familiar to anyone who listened to the Lincoln-Douglas debates. In those debates, Lincoln (echoing the language of the Declaration of Independence) argued that all men (and women) have a moral right to personal liberty, regardless of whether a particular government recognized or upheld that right. Douglas, in reply, argued that, in the Declaration of Independence, the words “all men” were properly understood as meaning “all white men.”

      It should be noted that the Declaration of Independence does not say that inalienable rights were endowed on people by “God,” but rather that they were endowed by “their Creator.” That carefully-chosen language reflects the fact that the primary author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, and his primary collaborator, John Adams, were deists who privately rejected the orthodox trinitarian Christian notion of “God.” The Declaration of Independence is not a Christian document, but a deist document.

      1. knownothingable

        Awesome post. Thanks!

  6. 6

    I called my post about it “Dei Sub Numine Viget

    1. 6.1
      Jasper of Maine

      *slow clap*

    2. 6.2
      Matt Dillahunty

      DAN wrote: Dei Sub Numine Viget


  7. 7

    “So, listen: First, I’m gonna claim that moral imperatives and rights exist objectively, independent from any person believing in them.
    (Of course, I’m not gonna answer any question on what I mean by that.)
    Then I’m gonna say that they cannot exist independent from any person believing in them.
    And from that, it obviously follows that there needs to be an immaterial, transcendent, omnipresent and omnipotent person that grants us those rights and that makes those moral imperatives. Are you following so far?
    Now in the next step, I will talk about a market bubble to explain that things are not simply valuable because and as long as we agree they are, but because they have inherent, absolute worth. Like gold, or diamonds.
    (This is, in case you were wondering, why religions don’t care about belief at all and only ever consider objective reality and stuff.)
    So now, here’s my conclusion: I’ve won the debate. Some of you might be surprised by that, but surely you remember: Doesn’t matter, because my having won this debate is independent of your agreement. I have won, even if no one believes so, because there’s this transcendent, omnipotent person that granted my inalienable victory.
    So Matt, you see, you can go fish, we’re done. Thanks for listening.”

    1. 7.1
      Hunchback Jack

      Muriel: very nice summary. :)

      In addition, here’s a summary of the subtext of what he was saying:

      “This country was founded on the principle that people have inalienable rights. It’s right there in the gosh-darned Declaration of Independence, signed by the founding fathers of our nation.

      So if those rights are inalienable, then it follows they come from God. So if we were a nation under God, those rights are guaran-effing-teed, because we would acknowledge and respect the authority of their Maker.

      But if we’re not a nation under God, then those rights – which we are proud to hold so dear – are subject to the whim of the Godless heathen.

      So if you believe in the principles of this country, the freedoms we hold so dear, that brave men and women have fought and died for, then you *have* to agree that we should be a nation under God. Otherwise, you’re not only going against the wishes of the founding fathers, but you’re advocating a society in which the rights and freedoms we love and enjoy can be negotiated away.”


    2. 7.2
      Jasper of Maine

      So if those rights are inalienable, then it follows they come from God.

      Because, you know, if the Declaration of Independence said it, it must be a factual statement.

      If the DoI said that we get our rights from Spiderman, then therefore, there must be a Spiderman.

  8. 8



    1. 8.1

      Ha ha. The tripod could use a bit of grease too. I had trouble hearing every time the camera panned in any direction.

    2. 8.2

      Those striped curtains in the background. Nothing but trouble.

  9. 9

    “Murray said that humans are not animals because animals don’t have moral senses. After all, sharks don’t show morals.”

    That’s certainly where Matt could have pointed out that morality in humans didn’t just come out of nowhere (like a binary switch) and is often present in different social species, and particularly primates, to varying degrees.

  10. 10

    I always considered weird the Christian claim that objective morality and moral duties exist, independent from human beings. However, no one has been able to demonstrate it yet. The best response I had was smth like: “Tortuting babies for fun is always immoral, therfore objective morality exists”. It looks like something completely non-sequitur to me. Why would someone torture babies for fun in the first place? What would the consequences of such actions be? These questions are extremely important in this case, but to Christians they are irrelevant. Theists do not seem to think of torture as “bad” without a God and that puzzles me. It is almost like they are unable to show the negative impact of torture without the help of religion.

  11. 11

    Somebody please tell me what rights the god concept gives people in the first place. Where in the big book of bullshit is the bill of rights? where are any rights? You can extrapolate rights from “love thy neighbour” but in and of itself it isn’t a fucking right.

    You christians aren’t citizens of the kingdom of god, you are subjects. There is a world of difference. Subjects don’t have unalienable rights! Subjects do as they are fuckin told by their overlords.

    If America was a nation under god it wouldn’t have a constitution, the constitution’s purpose is for a large part to limit the power of those in authority! A Nation under god can only ever be a theocracy.

    1. 11.1

      I posted this before watching Matt’s opening statement, which nailed everything i said, so there was absolutely no need to post this.

      Reminder to self; Watch video before commenting.

  12. 12
    Lausten North

    Nicely done Matt, your statements about respect early on set a tone that carried through. It was a pretty pleasant 90 minutes. But then, I have that kinda time. For those who don’t, listen to the other guys intro, then skip to the last minute. He bases his argument on “inalienable rights” in the Constitution, and Matt says, we have a Statue of Liberty that says we take everybody, the tired, the poor, etc. Do we want to amend that to say “only if they believe in God?”, No.

    One other highlight is around the 1 hour mark where Matt makes some good points on morality and they talk about faith. Murray pulls up the Bible word for faith, saying it means “active faith” and if you don’t listen careful, he seems to be saying that “knowledge” is part of faith. But really he says you only need to know God. This is the believer’s view that once you believe, it opens your mind to special knowledge. You don’t need to study evidence or facts or any other discipline, just study the word of God, get to “know” it, and you will have something non-believers don’t have.

  13. 13
    Lausten North

    Oh, and that book Murray recommends, Is God a Moral Monster, someone has already picked it apart. http://thomstark.net/copan/stark_copan-review.pdf
    Thanks to Reasonable Doubts podcast for that link.

    1. 13.1

      I tried to read that book when it was released, as i had been told the arguments presented were rock solid, and since then i have heard it touted as the be all and end all of apologetics.

      PLEASE DON’T BUY IT. You will be funding another moron.
      I am going to start writing/selling christian apologetic books, there is obviously a huge market.

      The book is absolutely horrible, it raises more paradoxes and questions than it answers. A five year old could write more consistent apologetics. An example of the level of bullshit is claiming that when god ordered the extermination of a city, it could very well have been a military encampment with no women and children resident, therefore wouldn’t be an immoral order. HUH? seriously? How the fuck… uh forget it.

      1. Lausten North

        After hearing the RD podcast on this I blogged about how these apologetic books aren’t really intended to be right, or make any real arguments, they are just there to take up space in book stores and give people like Murray something to point to. The book is huge and costs $25. Very few people will read it and few of them will check its sources or work through its logic. But you can point to it on a shelf (or amazon, whatever) and say, look someone wrote a big book proving God is not a moral monster, now shut up.

  14. 14

    I enjoyed the respectful nature of the debate.

    Murray seems stuck getting over the hump of a very basic concept: the source of our rights as citizens of the United States lie in the US Consitution and law. There is nothing whatsoever inalienable about our rights if they need to be codified. Citizens of other countries do not have the rights that we have, because they are not codified in their respective constitutions and laws. If humans truly had divinely mandated “inalienable” rights, than the laws of the universe would prohibit those rights from being violated, oppressed, etc. If “pursuit of happiness”, for example, was truly an inalienable right, there would be noone whatsoever in prison except for those who somehow deem imprisonment a situation conducive to the “pursuit of happiness”.

    This is really not a complex concept. With due respect to Murray, I think he is granting magical properties to the Declaration of Independence in a similar manner as many religionists grant magical properties to their holy book of choice.

    The Declaration of Independence says it. I believe it. That settles it.

    1. 14.1
      Joshua Fisher

      Well, no one can really infringe on your right to pursue happiness. I have never really been happy with that right. Even in the most dire circumstances you can still “pursue” happiness. Even in the darkest dungeon you can scheme and plot for your eventual escape, thus pursuing happiness. Hell, the best way to infringe on your right to pursue happiness is to let you achieve it. Once you have “caught” it why “pursue”?

  15. 15

    definition of inalienable: Unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor

    I can’t think of any examples. Can anyone think of any?

    The closest I can think of would be in cases where it is physically impossible to take away such rights, such as the right to remain silent. However, in these cases, I think rights means that you are able to perform said action without fear of repercussion so this wouldn’t be a suitable counterexample.

    1. 15.1

      Inalienable ok here’s what it means:

      In : refers to surround or cover something in something else
      Alien: refers to extraterrestrial life particularly tiny grey cosmonauts
      Able: refers to something that’s possible

      Thus inalienable is an adjective applied to a noun denoting the state of being possible to put it inside an alien QED! :P

  16. 16

    Scattered thoughts as I listen…

    If there’s an inalienable right to liberty why was god ever in any way OK with slavery? You have the right to liberty but we’re going to enslave you anyway. Right there you’re saying the bible is wrong in its teachings on slavery at any point in time. The whole inalienable rights thing runs right into a brick wall if you consider the bible to be accurate reporting of gods will.

    Thank the gods you didn’t just spend this time quoting founders back and forth. That would have bored me to tears.

    Glad that you touched on taking away the rights. Cause you do take rights away from killers etc. Personal preference for applause at the end.

    So wait if we create the cylons or some other sentient life do we get to choose what rights we give them? Why should our authority as their creators allow us to dictate what their rights they can and can’t have? If god decided we should have the right to kill anyone that looks at us funny should we actually follow that.

    So I guess I can feel happy knowing I have the right to rape anyone I want even if my right is taken away and suppressed? Or I guess my right has been violated? His argument really does seem to support any right you could attribute being given.

    Why if god grants these rights why didn’t his followers fight for them earlier? This is an argument for the laziest of gods that just waits for everything to turn out how he likes.

    I’m not sure if he’s ignorant or just deceitful. There is actually a lot of evidence for morality in animals to members of their own species. Why the focus on sharks? If sharks don’t show morality does that mean no other animals can show morality? That’s like suggesting that there are a whole bunch of people who kill others so people can’t be moral.

    Yeah bad part trying to grind people down on their deserving of this. Christians love claiming how shitty an undeserving they are.

    So I guess by the end your opponent hasn’t really changed my mind on any of this. Good job matt, I think we were both a little surprised to find out that this was a debate on morality.

  17. 17

    The apologiser really is conflating morals and rights, and getting very mixed up in the process. He assumes we know what is “right” as in of the opposite of wrong, because of his great law giver, who has given us our sense of right and wrong, and therefore imbued us with “rights”.

    It was a horrible debate to watch actually, and i’m not even referring to speilberg. The leaps of cognitave malfunctions in order to continue with his flawed premise were astounding.

    Paraphrase: The founders knew that rights don’t exist without a great right giver, that’s why rights obviously need a great law giver in order to exist.

    1. 17.1

      Actually the more i think about it, the more i think he was having the “rights exist ergo god exists” debate, he really didn’t have much more to say outside of that assertion. Anyone else come to this conclusion?

      1. Lausten North

        Yep, C.S. Lewis all over again.

  18. 18

    Isn’t the right to life exactly what he says it isn’t? I’m not commenting as he says this but near the end I recall him saying that killing you doesn’t take away your right to life… but isn’t the right to life not to be killed? wikipedia seems to think so: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_life

    Really it all goes back to how can you have a right that people don’t recognize. Actually how do americans reconcile that they have the inalienable right to life and liberty with state executions and imprisonment. I guess I still don’t see the value in the declaration that we recognize you have the unalienable right to life and liberty given to you by god even if we kill or imprison you because of your actions.

    We recognize that you have those rights that no one can take away but we might do it anyway if the situation calls for it. An oversimplification? Maybe. I think I’m just going to have to chock this whole stupid thing up to bad wording and poorly thought out positions and just move on.

    1. 18.1

      I think part of the problem with saying stuff comes from a god is it’s all too easy to say “we can’t measure up to his most ideal of ideals”. Whether that means it’s even easier to give up than if you took ownership of your shit, or it’s just a get-out clause when you feel the need arises, I don’t know.

  19. 19

    I think the best part of the debate was letting the mostly Christian audience see someone disagreeing with a Christian in a reasonable, sincere and honest way. Matt is a great ambassador for atheists. I’m sure that he planted seeds of doubt or an urge to question in at least one religious person in the audience. Great job, Matt, and thank you for doing this.

    1. 19.1

      I definitely had this same reaction. Ambassadorial is a good description. I love watching Dawkins debate, but always wonder if the religionists view him as a snobby, Oxford elitist is too overeducated to see their “plain truth”.

      I loved watching Hitchens debate, but always wondered whether religionists could ever get past feeling personally assaulted when they saw him rip their protagonist to shreds before their very eyes.

      I appreciated Matt’s calm, casual, “we’re not enemies, we just disagree on big issues” approach. I think it was well received by the manner in which several Christians asked their questions in the Q&A portion.

  20. 20

    Man, this whole thing is so incredibly local. I suppose it’s nice to have these founding documents and I actually think that Christians claiming they come from God is a testament to how successful they are. “Inalienable rights” can join morality and love as nice things that simply HAS to come from a god.

    I imagine that in 1,000 years time they’ll be stories of how Benjamin Frankincense went up a hill and came upon a white house where God dictated The Constitution to him.

    1. 20.1
      Lausten North

      Will there be mryhh? There should really be mryhh.

  21. 21
    Debunking Atheists

    I just can’t believe Matt gets paid to lie. Only in ‘merica’

    “Atheism is not an “ism” ~Matt

    [Edit by Martin: Dan, nice try, but our comments thread is not for you to try to drive traffic to your blog with links. If you think Matt is lying, make your case here, where people can actually respond to you. For the record, Matt received no payment for his debate participation.]

    1. 21.1
      Matt Dillahunty

      For clarity, on the “Matt received no payment” issue…

      I don’t normally have any speaking fee (though that has to change, as I burn through all of my vacation on these events and my time is worth something). I agreed to do this event for free. On some occasions, individuals will make some donation – and that happened in this case.

      So “no payment” isn’t accurate. The impression that person who hates me makes, though, is that I’m doing this for a living…which only shows how little he understands. These events tend to cost me money, when you figure in time-off from work.

      And, when I am getting paid for these events, anyone who objects can bite me.

      Paid to lie, though, that’s a strange accusation – when his complaint is that I claimed I was a Christian. I’d like DAN to e-mail Abdu, and ask him if he considers me a liar…because Abdu and I had a lengthy conversation about this. A conversation I’ve also had with Ray Comfort.

      Your accusations aren’t worth my time…unless you’d like to start paying me?!

      1. Martin Wagner

        I know you have been offered an honorarium by people who’ve invited you before, and that on at least one occasion you donated that to the ACA.

        1. jacobfromlost

          If Matt was the kind of person who did things primarily for money, it would be far more lucrative for him to declare he saw Jesus in his oatmeal this morning, and book appearances on Benny Hinn, the 700 Club, an Oprah Special, 60 Minutes, etc, and start pushing a book about how heaven is for real because Oatmeal Jesus told him so.

          It would be better than the lottery, and CERTAINLY better (and easier) than debating from a skeptical view “for money.”

      2. Debunking Atheists

        >>A conversation I’ve also had with Ray Comfort.

        So NOW you trust Ray’s words and beliefs? bwahahahaha Just wow, this is rich.

        >>[Edit by Martin: Dan, nice try, but our comments thread is not for you to try to drive traffic to your blog with links.

        Martin, you do not give too much credit to your readers because they only have to click my name to find me. Censorship to not allow a counter to your dogma / religion is so very telling and rich in itself. You’re scared and cowardly, which gives a comical slant to this ‘lion’s den.’ You do break many of my irony meters doing so, but that is a cost that is worth it. You’re a sad “man”, I didn’t think you would be that afraid of a counter. I am at least thankful you revealed that part of you to your readers.

        1. Martin Wagner

          Dan, you can call me all the names you like, since that’s all you’ve got going for you in that cracked clay pot you call a brain pan. In any event, we’ll let the readers decide which of the two of us they take seriously. Readers, what say you?

          Again, if we aren’t letting your comments through, it’s because you contribute nothing of value. There’s a difference between having a discussion, which is a thing adults do, and whatever variants of “nanny nanny boo boo” you seem to be limited to.

        2. Russell Glasser

          Dan: You don’t get banned for “speaking the truth” or for disagreeing with the moderators. You DO get banned for being childish. This is the last post of yours that will contain name calling and trash talking. The next one renews the ban. Do you understand me?

        3. Russell Glasser

          Dan did not understand me and is now banned.


          1. Martin Wagner

            Yeah. Wow. After we gave him more consideration than he deserved and explained carefully why we were screening and removing his comments, what was his response? MORE angry whining and accusations of cowardice (and what exactly is it Dan was thinking I was being cowardly about, since he never posted here to state an actual position or offer an actual argument?).

            Immaturity seems to be the stock in trade of a certain breed of fundamentalist. I’m not sure what is most pitiful about Dan, the fact that he’s so obsessed with heaping insults upon me, or that he believes I am actually wounded by them. His pervasive anger, not any kind of imagined treatment I am giving him, is what makes him such an unhappy man. Talking rationally to Dan was a lot like trying to explain calmly to a five-year-old why he couldn’t have cookies before supper, with the child only able to reply, “NO!! COOKIE NOWWW!!!” The first time Dan contacted us in 2006, he was allowed to comment literally for months before we kicked him, and if he’d shown any indication that he’d reached adulthood in the intervening years, he’d have been allowed back. But we are, in the end, not his parents. So long then.

    2. 21.2

      ism 1. a distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or practice 2. a word which ends with “ism”

      While I disagree, I understand why some people think atheism is a definition-1 ism. I hope the objection to Matt’s quote is like this, and not to definition 2.

    3. 21.3
      Jasper of Maine

      I don’t suppose you want to go ahead and provide an example of him lying here?

      1. Jasper of Maine

        “Atheism is not an “ism” ~Matt

        Wait, was that the lie?

        Do you understand the point he was trying to make, as opposed to literally interpreting an out of context quote? If you listen on, you’d understand the point he was trying to make.

        1. m6wg4bxw

          Reluctantly, I went to the Debunking Atheists blog. Matt is accused of lying about having been a Christian. You probably know the story. If he had actually been a Christian, he wouldn’t be an atheist now. A few other lies are listed, but that one came first, and seemed to have the most emphasis.

        2. Jasper of Maine

          Oh the humanity!

      2. Martin Wagner

        Well, as anyone who actually reads the blog and doesn’t just come here to throw out playground taunts knows, people get to post dissenting comments here all the time. You only need to read the recent threads about Natalie Reed and Alain de Botton to know that.

        But there’s a difference between a dissenting comment (“I think you’re wrong, because…”) and turning up, talking smack and flinging a bunch of childish insults, and calling people cowards when they don’t give you the attention you’re demanding. But then, you kind of have to be an adult to recognize when you aren’t acting like one.

    4. 21.4

      Spare me, go take a long walk off a short pier all ready.
      Trying to bring traffic to your page to raise revenue by tossing baseless accusations at someone else for the very act you’re doing is what one would expect from a hypocritical liar for Jesus.

      I know your pastor’s shiny Mercedes is incredibility seductive and Mr. Dillahunty is on the rise but please try not to ride on the tail of his comet and make your own way, liar for Jesus.

  22. 22

    If God grants inalienable rights he freaking sucks at actually granting them considering that entire demographics have been denied those very same “inalienable” right for the ENTIRETY OF HUMAN HISTORY. I don’t think this Murray fellow knows what inalienable means if he seriously thinks God has anything to do with it.

    It can’t be taken away, except for every single time it is. Good game God.

    1. 22.1

      What you don’t seem to realize is that God is a “gentleman”, meaning, apparently, that he doesn’t step in to help anyone. Ever. Anyone. Even a dying child, crying for help.
      Great guy, isn’t he?

  23. 23

    Something I noticed…

    08:57 Murray- “[…]inalienable rights cannot be taken away. That’s what they are—rights that can’t be taken away.”

    27:35 Murray- “If no one believes you have those rights, you still would, if there’s a god, and that’s what an inalienable right actually is.”

    Matt pointed out that a right which can’t be exercised is not a right you have. Though Murray objected, I found it interesting that his words throughout seemed to reflect Matt’s point.

    29:47 Murray- “Stalin specifically wanted to eradicate Christianity, and all belief in god, from Soviet Russia. And Lenin actually has a statement where he says, ‘That’s the goal.’ Or, ‘That’s a goal’, and you DIDN’T HAVE INALIENABLE RIGHTS, like the freedom of speech and to redress your government for grievances.” [emphasis mine]

    If we have inalienable rights from god, I assume the people who lived in Soviet Russia did too. But unless Murray misspoke (as he later did, which led to clarifying a revoked right vs a violated right), he contradicted himself. The rights can’t be taken away. It doesn’t matter that Stalin and Lenin believed they didn’t exist.

    30:38 Murray- “So when I say, ‘Under God,’ what I mean is—we as a people should recognize that our unalienable rights are derived from god. Because if we don’t recognize that, THEN THEY DON’T EXIST.” [emphasis mine]

    Same thing—if he is right, then we would still have inalienable rights regardless of whether “we as a people” recognize them as derived from god.

    Later in the debate, after being challenged on the value of inalienable rights which can’t be exercised, Murray began to use more precise language. He claimed that oppression violates, rather than revokes, an inalienable right.

    1. 23.1

      Good post.

      “He claimed that oppression violates, rather than revokes, an inalienable right.”

      But if it is absolutely inalienable, then it CAN’T be violated. If it is only inalienable relative to people who hold the value that all humans have inalienable rights…then it not only doesn’t NEED to come from a god, but you have no reason to think that it does since YOU (as individuals and groups) are the ones continually working to safeguard them.

      I think a similar confusion comes up with morality, in that believers invoke absolute morality, and then freely admit that absolute morals can be violated. I know of no other absolutes that can be violated, and I don’t even know what “absolute” means if it CAN be violated.


      1. m6wg4bxw

        According to Murray’s rationale, we can have inalienable-yet-violated rights. Further, they are somehow still valuable, despite the fact that they can’t be exercised. Matt responded to the idea, saying something like, “Then we all have inalienable rights to everything. It’s just that some of them are violated.”

      2. Comment1

        It’s another one where God is indistinguishable from nothing. You may as well say these rights come from “a perfect world”. Which is probably more accurate.

      3. Kyle

        “But if it is absolutely inalienable, then it CAN’T be violated.”

        Now hold on a second. Do you not think there is a distinction between violated and revoked? Why not?

        If a right could not possibly be violated, what would be the point of even having that right? You wouldn’t need, for example, the right to free speech if already no one could ever stop you from speaking freely.

        You have a right to an attorney, correct? Let’s say there’s a bad judge somewhere who doesn’t like you and somehow doesn’t allow you to have an attorney. Do you no longer have the right to an attorney? Of course you have the right, but the right has been violated.

        1. jacobfromlost

          Me before: “But if it is absolutely inalienable, then it CAN’T be violated.”

          Kyle: Now hold on a second. Do you not think there is a distinction between violated and revoked? Why not?

          Me: Because in reality, there is no distinction. They look exactly the same. If you think there is a distinction, what is it IN REALITY. Show me two instances where we could put them side by side and say instance A is inherently a violation of a right, while instance B is inherently a revoking of a right, and they are totally different.

          Kyle: If a right could not possibly be violated, what would be the point of even having that right? You wouldn’t need, for example, the right to free speech if already no one could ever stop you from speaking freely.

          Me: Which means the rights are not absolute, which means humans must safeguard them themselves, which means any argument that god has woven them into reality is unfalsifiable as it looks EXACTLY like people are securing them. One could just as easly pile up equally unfalsifiable claims that are contrary to the claim that god grants inalienable rights, and your argument is exactly the same. If the argument can be used to BOTH support and contradict your claim (and it can), then your claim is nonsense.

          Kyle: You have a right to an attorney, correct?

          Me: An absolute right? No. You only have a right because we all agree to it, as we would rather live in a society that allows us to defend ourselves against the state than one that does not.

          Kyle: Let’s say there’s a bad judge somewhere who doesn’t like you and somehow doesn’t allow you to have an attorney. Do you no longer have the right to an attorney? Of course you have the right, but the right has been violated.

          Me: Why hasn’t it been revoked? It looks exactly the same. Inalienable rights are not absolute, and therefore not a part of reality unless we actively MAKE them ourselves.

          The main problem is in conflating the idea of ABSOLUTE inalienable rights with inalienable rights in demonstrable reality. The only place we ever see inalienable rights is where we humans enforce them. Any place there are NOT enforced, we don’t see them.

          We therefore know where inalienable rights come from. They come from us. All the evidence supports this, and none of it contradicts it. If you have evidence that contradicts this, supply it.

          1. Kyle

            If someone violates your rights, you can sue them and win. If your rights are revoked, you can’t. Do you get it yet? I’m not talking about all that theoretical crap and I said nothing about unalienable rights or anything absolute. I don’t know why you went off on those tangents. Private parties can violate your rights and then they’re doing something illegal and the government’s on your side. But only the government can revoke your rights.

          2. jacobfromlost

            Kyle: If someone violates your rights, you can sue them and win. If your rights are revoked, you can’t. Do you get it yet?

            Me: But suing them is contingent on there being a government created by humans who have laws that include inalienable rights. “Revoking” them is also contingent on a government taking action and people supporting that action. There is nothing objective or absolute about what you are describing.

            Kyle: I’m not talking about all that theoretical crap and I said nothing about unalienable rights or anything absolute. I don’t know why you went off on those tangents.

            Me: It’s not a tangent, as you responded to my very sentence that INVOKED absolute inalienable rights! You replied to ME! Absolute inalienable rights are what Abdu was arguing for. He said that even if rights are violated, that you still have them. That makes them absolute. However, absolute things CANNOT be violated. That’s what “absolute” means.

            Kyle: Private parties can violate your rights and then they’re doing something illegal and the government’s on your side. But only the government can revoke your rights.

            Me: But governments are not absolute either. Governments are created by humans just like the “inalienable” rights. Besides, Abdu would not argue that a government can revoke your rights. He says god GRANTS you inalienable rights, which, he claims, is why you have them (this making them absolute).

            Moreover, if a government revokes your rights, and you take up arms against that government and overthrow it to create a NEW country that includes inalienable rights…did they REALLY revoke your rights, or not?

            I say no, as rights are only those things humans are capable of continually creating for themselves. Abdu says no because everyone has inalienable rights from god even if you can’t exercise them in any way, shape, or form (which means they are absolute).

          3. Kyle

            I’m not talking about Abdu either. I’m talking about your point of view. I don’t care what anyone else has to say about it right now.

            YOU implied that there’s no difference between violating and revoking a right. You don’t seem to be able to back that up. I’m not talking about unalienable rights or absolute rights or anything like that. Do you think there is no difference between the two of them, and in light of my explanations, why do you think that?

          4. jacobfromlost

            Kyle: I’m not talking about Abdu either. I’m talking about your point of view. I don’t care what anyone else has to say about it right now.

            Me: The discussion was about the video. I also suspect you don’t understand my point of view.

            Kyle: YOU implied that there’s no difference between violating and revoking a right. You don’t seem to be able to back that up.

            Me: You seem to want to throw out the distinction between inalienable rights in demonstrable reality, and absolute inalienable rights. There is a clear distinction, yet I don’t even think you understand what it is. In demonstrable reality, revoking a right and violating a right amounts to the same thing for the person whose rights being revoked or violated. To fall back on “the government” doesn’t work, as the government is created by people JUST LIKE THE RIGHTS.

            Kyle: I’m not talking about unalienable rights or absolute rights or anything like that. Do you think there is no difference between the two of them, and in light of my explanations, why do you think that?

            Me: You can’t throw out the definitions of the operable terms and continue a discussion about them. Do you think inalienable rights are absolute or not? There is no reason think they ARE absolute, as they can be “violated” or “revoked”, although both of THOSE actions are not and cannot be absolute either. As such, they are identical in reality, which means they are not absolute and that we, as humans, must safeguard them if we value them.

            If you want to continue the discussion acknowledging that we have inalienable rights only because we all agree we do and must continually work to keep them as individuals and a group, then we have no disagreement. That isn’t what Abdu was arguing, and your criticism of me suggests you don’t understand the debate specifically (in the vid) nor generally.

          5. Kyle

            And still you talk about both inalienable rights and absolute rights despite my simple and clear insistence that they’re irrelevant and not what I’m talking about at all. You somehow respond to everything except what I’m actually saying.

            Congratulations, you’ve reached the level of Poe. I’ll stop feeding the trolls now.

          6. jacobfromlost

            Kyle: And still you talk about both inalienable rights and absolute rights despite my simple and clear insistence that they’re irrelevant

            Me: They are not irrelevant. I explained how they are relevant. It is up to you to understand what I said.

            Kyle: and not what I’m talking about at all. You somehow respond to everything except what I’m actually saying.

            Me: You responded to me, dude. I didn’t respond to you. Moreover, the first sentence you took issue with was my statement, “But if it is absolutely inalienable, then it CAN’T be violated.” You then insisted I defend this statement without refering to the operable terms.

            Kyle: Congratulations, you’ve reached the level of Poe. I’ll stop feeding the trolls now.

            Me: I’ll let the readers judge who the poe is. I’m sure everything I have said sounds exactly like what a theist would say.

            If you want to debate atheists, just come clean and be honest. Don’t sneak into these fora and pretend to be an atheist who thinks the William-Lane-Craig-wanna-be really got one over on Matt Dillahunty. It comes off looking ridiculous.

          7. Kyle

            You really think I’m a theist, don’t you? It’s amazing. If this is how we atheists act towards theists, no wonder we never make any headway.

          8. jacobfromlost

            Kyle: You really think I’m a theist, don’t you? It’s amazing. If this is how we atheists act towards theists, no wonder we never make any headway.

            Me: You’re an atheist, you read this entire thread, and watched the entire debate above, and you didn’t have a clue what I was talking about in regard to absolute inalienable rights, or why Matt didn’t directly disprove Abdu’s claim about people having them? I find that unbelievable. Others can make their own judgments. (And I’m also confused as to why you think this thread DIDN’T summarize the debate. The entire thread is a discussion of it.)

          9. Kyle

            I know exactly what you were talking about in regard to absolute inalienable rights, hence my confusion as to why you felt the need to keep repeating yourself over and over about them. What I didn’t know is why you couldn’t address anything I was saying. I wanted clarification on a single point, i.e. the supposed lack of distinction between violating and revoking. Yes, I know the original quote mentioned inalienable rights, but the point applies to any rights and so I didn’t want you to keep getting hung up on that word. You were totally missing the point.

            Did you assume I was a theist simply because I wasn’t agreeing with you? Think about what that implies for a second.

            I think Matt is a great guy and has been a great influence to my atheism but I think he’s dead wrong about his idea that someone can take away your right to life simply by killing you. It makes me think he didn’t quite get it either.

            And there is a difference between a summary and a discussion. Reading this whole thread can take quite a while. But don’t worry, I’ll think twice before helping someone out next time.

          10. jacobfromlost

            New comment thread below.

  24. 24

    It appears he puts all the value on simply being able to say, “we have rights, whether they are granted or not,” and, “this is a nation under god.” If you take either of the concepts one step further their value is destroyed.

  25. 25

    At the end of the day the God described by Christians has next to zero of a chance of existing. I think Atheists and Ex-Christians can be very confident that these god claims are a pack of lies. Ex-Christians got to realize that these people are still emotionally attached to the story of God dying for their sins and that they will be grated eternal life and by telepathically or enchanting words to a being in another realm……they call this “prayer” does something. too many of them this stuff is hard to give up, this is why many Christians do not want to give it up no matter how well your arguments are and no matter how you come off they just plugged their ears.

    Matt is still one of the best speakers I’ve seen because I think to many people go way to easy debating these people, these religions have had there time and now people are stepping up and questioning this stuff….. the religious are getting pissed and the Christians are becoming more desperate to prove this stuff to be true, like people saying they found the real Noah’s Ark and I could go on and on.

    Christians need to give up soon because their religion with enough time will die. more and more are starting to take this stuff less and less seriously and more and more are doubting, and more are giving it up completely, this is not because some vague verses say in the last days people would be like this, it’s because people are starting to see the bull-shit now more then ever before, and if I hear one more end timer tell me the tribulation is near or the rapture is near or anything like that then I will scream….not really, but you get the point, but every-time a disaster strikes the USA people say we are getting closer…I find it a tad ironic that these same people do not support genocide but these same people say God in his wrath will come back to in leash judgments on the world in such a way that people will be begging for death and get none, and these same people are basically supporting a God that will not only kill billions of people but kill most of the life on earth in a bloody fashion that it would make a rated X movie look like a G rated movie, and then this said God will banished them into eternal torment afterwards….what a sick doctrine to believe in and it shows you good people can have their minds twisted by bible to believe this garbage.

    I can only hope that more people take a stand like Matt does, though not everyone can do what he does, we need more people like him.

  26. 26

    I watched almost the whole debate, skipping through the largest chunks of Abdu’s stuff.

    Matt did a great job. The laughter at the notion of “raping and murdering without god” was perfect, and everything Matt said from about 30 minutes to the end was very strong. (Thanking the audience for laughing was genius.)

    Matt seemed visibly nervous for the first half hour, but after that he seemed at ease.

    It may have been the way the video was shot, but the walking back and forth was a little distracting throughout (at first it seemed like a nervous habit, then just a habit–but the camera following back and forth may have made it look worse than it was in person). A little movement is ok, but next time I’d cut that in half. Also be mindful to avoid turning your back on a significant part of the audience, even briefly (although make sure you don’t fall down if you walk backwards a few steps).

    A couple other points. It seemed to me that Abdu was using the word “foundational” as a code word for “absolute”. Later, he seemed to use “objective” as a code word for “absolute”. There may have been room to argue that point if it could have been clarified.

    The ending was VERY strong. I’m not sure if it would have been appropriate or not, but after Matt said it was possible that he could be wrong about anything, I would have loved him to turn to Abdu and ask him if it were possible Abdu could be wrong about anything also. I can say I have had the opportunity dozens of times on the net to freely admit to theists that I could be wrong about anything, but when I ask them if THEY could be wrong about anything, including the existence of their god…they NEVER admit as much. (To be fair, I think the hosts did ask this question of Ray Comfort, but I think he said, “I could be wrong, but god’s not wrong”, which basically misses the point entirely.)

    1. 26.1

      Walking around engages the audience; but with a 1-camera amateur videographer it can make the TV audience dizzy — but since there were no visuals, just listening to the audio is fine for this. One decision Matt (et al.) have to make is whether a performance is for the studio audience or the potential world-wide observers.

      In this instance Matt’s audio was of much better quality than wosname’s — the mike? experience with mikes? that, combined with the different cogency of thought made it difficult for me to sit through wosname’s talking.

      BTW, Amarillo triangulates with Lubbock and Clovis. Clovis, as you should know, is where Buddy Holly recorded. It is also about 15 miles north of Blackwater Draw, where the first Clovis Man sites were found. If you extend the vector from Lubbock through Clovis, you get to Roswell! perhaps the UFOs were returning to see what happened to their brethren they left off at Blackwater Draw some millenia ago. More than that! keep extending the vector and you get to Alamogordo Proving grounds, where the military tested its nasty stuff!! Just a coincidence???? You be the judge.

      1. jacobfromlost

        Walter: Walking around engages the audience; but with a 1-camera amateur videographer it can make the TV audience dizzy

        Me: I think it was more than the camera work (even though the camera work made it worse). I have a background in teaching, so I’m not just making this up. Matt DID turn his back–although briefly–on more than half the audience several times in the debate, mostly from the habit of walking around too much.

        Walking around is fine, as long as it is relaxed (and stopping when you have particular point you want to emphasize is good as well). At the end of the debate, Matt looked more relaxed. At the beginning, he looked nervous. And at some points where he otherwise seemed relaxed, the walking made him LOOK nervous since it had seemed to become a habit rather than an effective way to engage the audience.

        Matt is very good at thinking quickly and speaking quickly, but I think that quickness spilled over to moving around quickly a few times (and I’m not saying it was HUGE problem, only a minor problem). That kind of body language can be interpreted as being evasive or even not liking the audience. (Walking more than half way to Abdu while calmly and openly explaining that they don’t hate each other was perfect. The body language matched the message. Walking nearly or slightly into the audience at the end for questions was also very good, and his eye contact with audience members was good as well.)

  27. 27
    Anonymous Atheist

    For anyone else wondering, and for future searchability, this is the location where this debate took place:

    “West Texas A&M University (also known as WTAMU, WT, and formerly West Texas State), part of the Texas A&M University System, is a public university located in Canyon, Texas, a small city south of Amarillo.”

    The atheist/secular group that helped set it up is Freethought Oasis in Amarillo, TX – freethoughtoasis.org

    The debater on the religious side is Abdu Murray from Alethia International – embracethetruth.org

  28. 28

    Something I found maddening was how there was only really talk of positive, agreeable rights that we (at this current time and place) recognise as good.

    If someone only has a right because a transcendent authority figure granted it to them, then that right could just as easily be the right to own slaves, or the right to rape and pillage. If we’re under god’s authority and we can’t create and govern rights through our own reason and empathy, then how would we use those same tools to suppress them if god’s mandate was harmful?

  29. 29

    I’m sure it must have been of great comfort to slaves to learn about their inalienable right to freedom from which they just happened to be alienated.

    1. 29.1

      I know, I’ve been obsessing about how to drive home that point. What difference does it make if you have an “unalienable right” to something if the same transcendent source is unwilling to give us “unalienable access”.

      Could be a good debate tidbit. Unalienable right is worthless without unalienable access. Or something like that…

  30. 30

    Well done, Matt. I had trouble hearing various portions but thought you handled this well after being thrown at the opening.

    Why not “one nation under God(s)”?

    He said we wasn’t making the case for any one particular god but his position belies that he was arguing solely from a monotheistic culture. Matt tried to hit this several times but the psychological phenomena that Murray is guilty of is, I believe, hyperactive agency detection and apophenia (I’m reading the Christian Delusion by Loftus).

    It may help in future debates or calls to the AE TV show to name the psychological phenomena that describes our tendency to give credit and blame to supernatural causes, to attribute human characteristics to god, to see faces in leaves and clouds, etc. when you see the caller manifest these tendencies when advocating a religious viewpoint. I may have missed it, but I didn’t hear any evidence for the rights being unalienable and no reason to think that they have merit unless god is willing to secure them. Don’t get me started on the shark and zebra nonsense. I wish you’d had time to take that on. The Q&A turned into more debate and he seemed to get the last word a lot.

  31. 31
    fred jones

    For many people religion is just like a favourite sports team and the actual facts of the matter are not that important.

    Most people are followers and this is largely why our society is so stable, this is actually a good thing for practical reasons.

    This is also why the religious are generally seriously misinformed and very naive, but appear happy and confident while happily supporting their “team”.

    They are not the first group of people in human history to think insane nonsense is actually true , and will not be the last.

    1. 31.1
      Jasper of Maine

      I think this is a good way of putting it, and why we can’t seem to connect with these people frequently.

      And to extend the analogy, they base a lot of their stereotypes from this model.

      For instance, since football is a Man’s Sport, if you don’t like/watch football, then obviously cannot be manly. Q.E.D.

  32. 32

    Come to think of it, do our souls retain these rights after our death? It would be a bit odd for them do be bestowed upon our flesh and then we get eternally punished for pursuing happiness via carnal pleasures.

  33. 33

    Nice to know that your revolution was a complete waste of time. You had the inalienable right to life, freedom and pursuit of happiness all along, they were just being violated by the guys in charge.

    Maybe you didn’t have them back then, but you could have just leaned back and waited. Boy were you stupid.

  34. 34

    I thought the debate was interesting overall and both participants made some good points. I come out Matt’s position and to me “inalienable” doesn’t need to be from a divine source at all. If such WAS the case, where did the so called “giver” get the authority to bestow these “inalienable” rights?

    1. 34.1

      After reading most of the comments here, it just dawned on me why the fixation on the word “inalienable” makes sense to a person I assume is a biblical literalist. He’s used to trusting the “word” of god because it’s in the big book. So, he just transfers the same sentiment over to the Declaration of Independence and there you have it: the inspired word of god. Thus, the Declaration is from god and the rights it documents are therefore from god.

      Ironically, Is he not committing a form idolatry by worshipping both texts? Or am I being too simplistic?

  35. 35

    The major stickin point for me was in the topic of the debate, the whole association of “nation” with “god”.
    Is it not the nation that deals with criminals and criminality, through both its organized government and also the norms and forms of its society?
    So the breaking point (for me) in the whole idea of diety-bestowed “inalienable rights” is as follows:

    -God gives inalienable rights: life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness
    -these rights may not be revoked, but violated
    -these rights are granted to everyone (all people regardless of actions and choices, including criminal conduct)
    -the nation (its government) may deprive (violate the right to) liberty through incarceration in cases of criminality for reasons punitive, remedial, or for the safety of the general citizenry
    -in considering this is to be a nation under (in harmony and accordance with) god, does not the handling of criminals in ways violating one of their inalienable rights (liberty) constitute “ungodliness”? Every time a criminal is incarcerated, does that not put lie to the idea of America as a “nation under god”?

    Or is it just the government they deem ungodly (maybe more sickeningly the case these days, given the political rhetoric at hand)? Is the incarceration of criminals truly a topic of Christian protest, as would seem consistent with the idea that god affords liberty to all as an inalienable right?

    Tldr; criminals don’t get their rights, so says the nation. God must be peeved

  36. 36

    Another major problem with saying “inalienable rights” come from god is that, as they are defined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the bible clearly says we DON’T have those rights.

    The best it says is that those in charge, like Kings, have rights given by god. If anything, the founders acting on “inalienable rights” violated the rights of the king, who was given his rights by god.

    The bible doesn’t endorse one’s inalienable right to whatever religious preference they want (including none). In fact, the first commandment is that thou shalt have no gods before me. Good grief.

    In fact, the founders REJECTED the god of the bible who said the king was the only one with rights because they hated how King George was treating them. So they made up a new god, or at least agreed that “nature’s god” would grant all men inalienable rights BECAUSE THEY WERE MEN WHO WANTED INALIENABLE RIGHTS.

    Biblically there is nothing indicating one has the right NOT to be a slave, that one has the right NOT to be a Christian, that one has the right NOT to go to church on Sunday.

    You certainly have the “free will”, but that’s not the same as a right–although I can hear apologists jumping straight to the “free will” stuff as if it matters.

  37. 37
    Wolf Martinus

    I think Matt did well trying to get across some of his own points and not just reacting to Murray’s rather strange line of argumentation.

    His shtick seems to go like this:

    a) There’s the concept of “inalienable rights”
    b) There’s the concept of “god”

    c) We assume that there’s can be an implementation of a) in reality
    d) We assume b) exists in reality

    c) There’s a document that says d) entitles the people of U.S. to have c)

    d) Therefore if there wasn’t d) the people of the U.S. couldn’t have c)
    e) But we can clearly conceive of a) independent of c)
    f) hence d) must be true and be acknowledged as the supreme leader of the U.S.

    Makes perfect sense – or am I just missing the crucial flaw in his reasoning?

  38. 38

    I feel a bit behind, but ITT I learned Beth is Microbiologychick.

  39. 39

    Kyle: I know exactly what you were talking about in regard to absolute inalienable rights, hence my confusion as to why you felt the need to keep repeating yourself over and over about them.

    Me: I swear to god you did not understand what I said. If you did, you wouldn’t still be arguing with me (nor claim below that Matt was wrong and didn’t understand Abdu’s point).

    Kyle: What I didn’t know is why you couldn’t address anything I was saying. I wanted clarification on a single point, i.e. the supposed lack of distinction between violating and revoking.

    Me: Case in point. You don’t understand how “violating” vs. “revoking” rights is directly related to how you view inalienable rights–as absolute, or as created and maintained by humans.

    Kyle: Yes, I know the original quote mentioned inalienable rights, but the point applies to any rights and so I didn’t want you to keep getting hung up on that word. You were totally missing the point.

    Me: No, you are missing the point. And you deleted the operant term of “absolutely” from “inalienable rights” in the quote you were criticizing. Instead of simply asserting that you understand the distinction I am making between absolute inalienable rights, and inalienable rights maintained by humans, please EXPLAIN the distinction. If you can do that, I don’t understand why you are still arguing with me, or claiming Matt didn’t understand Abdu’s point.

    Kyle: Did you assume I was a theist simply because I wasn’t agreeing with you? Think about what that implies for a second.

    Me: No. But thanks for strawmanning. I think you are a theist because you play shady games like demanding I defend my stance without reference to operant terms in my stance. You don’t even seem to understand that the nature of “inalienable rights” directly impacts the idea of violating or revoking them. You also said Murray was “an accomplished and well-spoken ex-Muslim Christian apologist.” It’s really a bizarre thing to say in light of his performance in the vid.

    Kyle: I think Matt is a great guy and has been a great influence to my atheism

    Me: Does anyone else see what I see in this sentence?

    Kyle: but I think he’s dead wrong about his idea that someone can take away your right to life simply by killing you. It makes me think he didn’t quite get it either.

    Me: You still have the right to live after you are dead? How would you demonstrate that? What is your argument? Are you simply going to assert it the same way Adbu did? That’s not an argument.

    Kyle: And there is a difference between a summary and a discussion. Reading this whole thread can take quite a while.

    Me: It didn’t take me long at all. Besides, that’s why we come to this blog. Why did you come here, this one time, to this ONE thread? (It’s usually theists who complain about how much work it is to read things. Atheists don’t go to an atheist blog and then NOT read it. THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE.)

    Kyle: But don’t worry, I’ll think twice before helping someone out next time.

    Me: The reason there is no difference between revoking and violating rights in reality is because they look the same in reality. The only argument you gave in defense of them being different is that you can sue if they are violated (which isn’t always true), and you can’t sue if they are revoked by the government. But that changes nothing about the “inalienable” right–you still can’t exercise it, which means you don’t have it in reality. Moreover, the basis of the violation or revocation is always PEOPLE in reality doing something in reality. As Matt said, if you are going to say “everyone has absolute inalienable rights, it’s just that some of the rights are violated”, then you can just as easily say you have the right to do ANYTHING, it’s just that some of them are violated. There is nothing in your claim or Abdu’s that limits the claim of absolute inalienable rights, thus what your or Abdu in your own minds think are absolutely inalienable rights are in fact just the agreement you have made with other people–the social contract.

    If you think you still have the right to live after you are dead, you must have a spectacular argument. I wonder why you haven’t offered it?

    1. 39.1

      I’m still not sure what I did to offend you so much, but I’m done trying to talk to you. I was just trying to have a discussion but you seem to be performing for an audience.

      1. jacobfromlost

        You quote mined me, angrily demanded I defend my position without referencing it AFTER you quote mined me, demonstrated (angrily) that you didn’t understand the terms of the debate, and then flat refused to defend YOUR position–you just asserted it.

        Then you feigned ignorance and pretended you were trying to have a discussion. You don’t have a discussion by redefining all the operant terms, and both strawmanning and quote mining the opposition–then getting upset when that is pointed out.

  40. 40

    Matt, good debate. It is a pleasure to listen to you; you are so rational, cool and calm under pressure.

    However, I was surprised that you did not point out that the Constitution, which enumerates our “inalienable” rights makes no mention of God, or any variation on god, like Creator. It starts out:

    “We, the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    It specifically states that the formation of the U.S. and the rights it proclaims come from “We, the people..”.
    Murray harped on the DoI because it is the only founding document that mentions a Creator. The DoI was an open letter of intent to the British government (and all other governments), but not the document that established the U.S government.
    I believe that the founding fathers used the term “Creator” in the DoI as a rebuttal to the claim of European monarchs that their right to rule their colonies came from God. It’s like an atheist using quotes from the Bible against a theist.

  41. 41

    Murray wants to appeal to a source of human rights that won’t go away even when laws, customs, norms, common wisdom, etc., don’t support them. Fine, whatever. Hand-waving while repeating the word “transcendent” doesn’t specify or clarify why that source needs to be a deity. For that matter, it doesn’t account for the possibility that a deity is AGAINST the rights of the oppressed — you don’t need to look far to find believers who don’t just claim but *loudly insist* that people’s assertions of rights have gone way too far and need to be curtailed immediately and harshly. We have US presidential candidates right now who are all but salivating in their desire to ban birth control pills and condoms; we have fanatics in the Muslim world who would happily take lives if it meant keeping a copy of the Koran away from a tiny splash of urine or the bottom of a shoe.

    If you want a sturdy basis for human rights, look no further than our shared human nature as understood by our expanding scientific understanding of it. All humans share the same basic desires, pleasures, pains, and sympathies. If you need a bearded guy from an old book to tell you (in translation) that other people are fundamentally the same as you, then you’re well on your way to demonstrating that you’re a textbook psychopath, or letting something — avarice maybe, or credulity, or a set of nasty norms, or laziness — undermine your sense of fairness, empathy, and decency.

    If our shared human nature isn’t (in your opinion) sturdy enough to found human rights, then get to work shoring up your understanding of it, and meanwhile understand that reality is not and won’t be bounded by your ignorance.

  42. 42

    I generally like listening to debates to see if a new or interesting argument comes up. I’m taking a break, however, as Abdo is really hard to listen to. His arguments are objectionable – as in um, that doesn’t follow or um, that doesn’t make sense.

    One small example (and there are bigger fish), (I’m paraphrasing)
    Abdo: Justice doesn’t make sense as an independent freely floating right but if you take a step back and say ‘goddidit’ then it now is a very strong and pretty concept. I don’t see how the goddidit helps. It’s at best a non sequitur and begs the question.

    I keep hoping for apologetics that don’t endlessly rely on rhetorical tricks and logical fallacies. I’m endless disappointed.

  43. 43

    If the majority of people felt they had the right to affortable chocolate fudge ice cream every weekend, they would say that was a god given right too.

    Pointless. Might as well say as a man I have the ‘right’ to give birth to a child. If you can’t it becomes meaningless.

    It’s funny how these god given rights line up precisely with the opinion of the person making the assertion.

    Only people can try to agree and decide what they agree our ‘rights’ should be.

  44. 44

    Wow. I totally disagree with the statement, “If a lion kills a zebra, does it murder the zebra? No.”

    Of course it is murder when a lion kills, what else would you call it?! If you are the Zebra, do you think you are ok with it? No! to them it must feel like murder, so it is.

    I can’t believe the audacity of the claim that only humans can be murdered. Does this guy have absolutely no empathy?

    1. 44.1

      Right. Adbu seems to be making a prescriptive case rather than a descriptive one, which doesn’t actually argue anything. If you start with the rule that “humans shall not intentionally/maliciously kill other humans because that is murder,” and then say a lion killing a zebra is not murder because it wasn’t a human killing another human…then you’ve just defined your argument into existence.

      Besides, is a lion intentionally killing a HUMAN murder? Either answer–yes or no–poses serious problems for his overall case. If he says no, then why mention a lion killing a zebra as that would be irrelevant (they aren’t of the same species, just as a person hunting deer for food wouldn’t be considered murder by hungry people awaiting the food). If he says yes, then clearly “murder” ultimately depends upon your point of view–if you are a human, you think if ANYTHING intentionally kills you, it is murder. So you could just as easily say from the zebra’s point of view, or the deer’s, that they are being murdered.

      You have to start with Abdu’s conclusion in order for his argument that leads to his conclusion to make any sense. Which really makes one wonder WHY he even tries to make an argument. Just asserting his position and saying “that’s the way it is” would be more honest.

  45. 45

    Murray and his cheering section somehow never pause to consider that the major sects of Christianity didn’t inspire their followers to a moral consensus against human slavery until the late 19th century. The orthodoxy behind the Mormon version of Jesus didn’t get around to acknowledging the full humanity of non-whites until the 1970s, and only dubiously then. The world is still waiting for a theological consensus among Muslims to allow non-Muslims to live in peace and equality.

    The illustrations could go on. As a matter of historical fact, the idea of human rights has been crushed rather than upheld “under god” the world over. As a matter of historical fact, passable articulations of human rights, such as the US bill of rights, the French constitution, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights arose only after people began to step away from a god-based view of the world.

  46. 46

    To the question at 1:18:xx about which god we should be a nation under, the theist (sorry I forgot his name) basically says that it doesn’t matter which god. I find this to be a very “question dodging” answer. If we should be be a nation under god, isn’t it important to define what god is if our nation is going to be “subject” to it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>